YANGON – Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party declared Saturday that it will contest 2015 parliamentary elections even if the constitution barring her from running for president isn’t amended.
It was the first time the National League for Democracy announced it would take part in the polls, which Suu Kyi had said cannot be fair unless the constitution is changed.
“I want to say that the NLD will contest the 2015 elections,” party spokesman Nyan Win said at a news conference following a meeting of its members.
Myanmar’s president is chosen by parliament rather than directly elected to office. The president is usually elected during the first session of parliament following a general election.
The NLD expects to do well enough in the 2015 polls to put up its own presidential candidate, and Suu Kyi has expressed an interest in running.
The 2008 constitution was drawn up under Myanmar’s former military regime to ensure its continuing influence in government. The NLD considers it undemocratic because of clauses giving the military a mandatory allocation of 25 percent of parliamentary seats and disqualifying Suu Kyi from running for president.
The party boycotted 2010 elections as undemocratic, but ran in by-elections last year after changes were made in election laws. It won 43 of the 45 seats it contested in both houses of parliament, with Suu Kyi securing a seat in the lower house.
A Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former political prisoner, Suu Kyi has said “there will be more problems” if the constitution is not amended before the 2015 elections, though she has not specified what would happen. In October, she and her party launched an awareness campaign in many parts of the country to garner public support for amending the constitution.
Myanmar’s parliament formed a constitution review committee in July to recommend changes to the constitution before the 2015 elections. The 109-member committee includes lawmakers from all parties, including the NLD and President Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, along with the military’s allotted representatives.
The committee will collect suggestions from individuals, organizations and political parties and submit them to parliament by the end of January.
The NLD decided at Saturday’s meeting to send suggestions on changing 168 points from 14 chapters of the constitution, including the article that disqualifies Suu Kyi from becoming president, according to Win Myint, a senior party member.
Article 59 of the constitution says anyone whose spouse or child owes allegiance to a foreign power cannot become president or vice president. Suu Kyi was married to the late British scholar Michael Aris, and her two sons are foreign citizens.
Constitutional amendments require the consent of more than 75 percent of lawmakers, followed by over 50 percent approval in a nationwide referendum.